OMG! He’s nailed it!!
Expect that thought to cross your mind in just seconds, as soon as masterful actor Brian Parry appears as Nixon. It’s a performance that ensures you will never see footage of the actual, real Nixon of history in the same way again. Why did we never notice before how much Nixon always had the whiff of a submissive beaten puppy looking up imploringly, even when he was mustering full bravado??
That fellow Redtwist veteran Adam Bitterman becomes huckster/promoter Swifty Lazar is perhaps less startling to those who have seen him before. But do prepare to long for more Mike Wallace, another role that Bitterman takes on in a relatively brief cameo.
That might be the tiniest shard of a flaw in the FROST/NIXON script by Peter Morgan, whom contemporary audiences might know more for THE QUEEN or THE CROWN. Telling the story of how perceived lightweight journalist of sorts, David Frost, did the first in-depth interviews with Richard Nixon after his banishment to San Clemente. Nixon longs to be a player again. In this telling, Frost too wants to move from the margins back into the spotlight. No mere arm wrestle, this is more a gladiators’ fight to the death.
It amazes this writer to learn that Morgan, born 1963, didn’t live through these times with adult eyes. More, that it takes a Brit to bottle the anxious zeitgeist in America after Watergate—when so many experienced Nixon’s pardon by Gerald Ford as the end of democracy. For those of us now reading the daily news with full frontal phantom pains of those times, Redtwist’s staging of FROST/NIXON couldn’t be more timely.
It’s not only Parry and Bitterman, but the entire cast under the direction of Scott Weinstein that takes Morgan’s script and never lets the electricity out of the room, starting with Jason Richards as David Frost and Jim Tepeli as Jim Reston, the magnetic narrator of the drama unfolding. More than any other voice, Tepeli’s Reston pulses with the electricity of the times and script both.
Redtwist Theater Gives Us a BEST PLAY EVER Contender
From this reviewer’s perspective, the brilliant touches in this production pile on to leave admirers of live performance breathless. For one, the slightly time-delayed broadcast of the interview, giving a steady close-up view of Nixon’s gestures (Projection Designer Rasean Davonte Johnson and Technical Director Buzz Leer) is a non-stop showcase of Parry’s fine-tuned Nixon impersonation. How perfect that the minimal set in Redtwist’s small space reminds of how we all took in history in the intimacy of our living rooms (Scenic Design: Jeffrey D. Kmiec).
Nixon apologists, Trump lovers, or anyone who thinks obstruction of justice is a ho-hum proposition, won’t find much to like in this production. For the rest of us—and we ARE the majority—Redtwist’s production of FROST/NIXON may go on your short list of “Best Plays EVER”.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Thru June 3
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7:30 PM
Sunday 3:00 PM
1044 West Bryn Mawr
Cast (Alphabetical Order):
Adam Bitterman (Swifty Lazar/Mike Wallace), Patrick Byrnes (John Birt/Ollie), Raphael Diaz (Waiter/Studio Manager), Kristi Forsch (Evonne Goolagong/Stewardess/Waitress), John Arthur Lewis (Jack Brennan), E. Malcolm Martinez (Manolo Sanchez), Brian McKnight (Bob Zelnick), Brian Parry (Richard Nixon), Jason Richards (David Frost), Heather Kae Smith (Caroline Cushing/Make-Up Lady), Mike Tepeli (Jim Reston)
Scott Weinstein (Director), Isabel Perry (Associate Director), Jenn M. Thompson (Stage Manager), Josy Gonzalo (Assistant Stage Manager), Max Colvill (Production Manager), Buzz Leer (Tech Director), Jeffrey D. Kmiec (Set Designer), Brandon Wardell (Lighting Designer), Eric Backus (Composer, Sound Designer), Rachel M. Sypniewski (Costume Designer), Andrew Hatcher (Props Designer), Rasean Davonte Johnson
(Projection Designer), Sammi Grant (Vocal Coach), Alyssa Mohn (Associate Set Designer), Meagan Beattie (Assistant Costume Designer)